Wednesday, February 08, 2006

misguided and oppressive segments

“Tens of thousands of angry Muslims have been marching through cities in Palestine, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, England, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, France (etc.) burning western flags and calling for vengeance against European countries where caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad were published, including one depicting the Muslim prophet wearing a turban fashioned into a bomb.”

“Al-Sistani, who wields enormous influence over Iraq's majority Shiites, suggested militant Muslims were partly to blame. He referred to "misguided and oppressive" segments of the Muslim community and said their actions "projected a distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love and brotherhood.’”

I can’t tell you how saddening and frustrating all of this is. When the cartoons first appeared in a Danish newspaper, Muslims were initially outraged, but the paper apologized and Muslims moved on. Then several newspapers around Europe decided to reprint the cartoons in an effort to exercise free speech. Now we’ve got Muslims in the streets and Muslim clerics talking holy war. Seriously, have the editors of these papers lost all sense and reason?

The words of Paul come to mind here when he said that everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive (1 Corinthians 10:23). I get it. Free speech. But it’s easy to stand up for free speech when you’re not the one having your house and/or church burned down as a result of some stupid cartoons that some (supposed) activist has decided that he must print!

On the other hand, why are Muslims expecting the non-Muslim community to live according to Muslim laws? For Muslims, it’s a sin to produce images of Mohammed. They see it as idolatry. But then, don’t they think we’re all sinners anyway? Why would they expect anything different from us than to act like sinners? It makes no sense that they would expect us to live by Muslim law. We’re not Muslims! Therefore, printing images of the prophet Mohammed is just one more sin on a long list of sins.

This reminds me of another community I know.

I’ll be you know where I’m going with this.

The Christian community has been doing the same thing for years. Protesting the non-Christian community for not living according to Christian laws and, sometimes, even mere traditions. While we shake our heads at the Muslim community for getting uptight about a few European newspaper’s depictions of the prophet Mohammed, let us not forget that just this past Christmas much of the Christian community got uptight because a few retailers decided not to depict our “prophet” at all! And, in our case, it wasn’t even Christian law! It was only tradition! After all, as my scholarly friend Shawn pointed out, Christmas isn’t even in the Bible!

Al-Sistani said it right, and it relates to my (Christian) community as well. The world has a very distorted and dark image of the Christian faith due to the actions of a few misguided and oppressive segments of its community which have lost sight of the Bible’s message of love, justice, grace, and salvation.

Between the protesting Christians, Muslims, and the insanely insensitive European newspaper editors, Al-Sistani seems to be the only one with any sense here. Well, he and Paul…

Comments on "misguided and oppressive segments"


Blogger surrendered said ... (8:54 PM) : 

"The Christian community has been doing the same thing for years. Protesting the non-Christian community for not living according to Christian laws and, sometimes, even mere traditions."

Don't you think there's a difference between Christians trying to influence society through (mostly) peaceful means and radical Muslim leaders trying to start a holy war by inciting their people to violence against the Western world?

I'm sure that Christians would raise as much stink verbally about something like Kanye West posing with a crown of thorns on the cover of Rolling Stone, but as of yet, I haven't seen thousands upon thousands of them throwing Molotov cocktails at the Syrian Embassy in Washington.


Blogger Tim said ... (11:53 PM) : 


I find it maddening that you continue to justify the Christian community’s actions with “oh yeah, well we’re not as bad as them!”

Furthermore, the church has already had its holy war. It was called the crusades. And the Muslim community hasn’t forgotten about it.

And finally, it’s easy to stand peacefully, with your head held high, when it isn’t you who is being oppressed. But Muslims all over the world are watching as their brother’s and sister’s countries are raped, pillaged, and devastated by western (Christian in their minds) countries. Just as the black community lashed out after the first Rodney King trial, the Muslim community is lashing out for what they see as the western world spitting in their face.

I don’t condone what they are doing. Just the opposite. But I will also not stand blindly and say that I cannot see any justification for it. If somebody walked into my house and spit on my wife and child, I would truly be Christ like if I responded by kissing them on the cheek. But to tell you the truth, I’m not all that Christ like and I would more likely respond by beating the living daylights out of them and throwing them out of my house!


Blogger surrendered said ... (12:44 AM) : 


Fact is, Christians ARE being oppressed and persecuted and beheaded and killed by Muslims all over the world (like the recent 3 teenage girls beheaded in Indonesia on their way to a Christian school) , but the media in the Western World (not even FOX news) doesn't cover those stories, for some reason. Where is the Muslim outrage over that?

So the Crusades are to blame for current Muslim outrage? Wow.

And we're raping Muslim countries? Wow.

I never said, "We're not as bad as them." You're twisting my words. I will say this, though:

Unless there is a large movement of moderate Muslims who condemn violence as a way to express discontent and who admit that there are serious errors in their holy book, which condones violence against any unbelievers - unless this happens, the extremist Muslims will get what they want: a holy war.


Blogger Tim said ... (10:32 AM) : 

I’m sorry Phil, but the minute you say things like there are “serious errors in their holy book, which condones violence against any unbelievers” your opinion becomes so biased, and so unfounded, that it can’t be taken seriously or argued against. I don’t know a single Muslim who believes that and, furthermore, I live in city full of Muslim Clerics who are working their tails off to make it clear to us and their own community that this is indeed NOT the message of the quoran.

Also, if you don’t know and believe that we are raping their countries, then really, we should just continue our safe little dialogue about “what is worship” and lay this one to the side. The west (not just the U.S.) has been raping the middle east for several decades now. Consider how in the world a region, which has the greatest natural resource in world history (no exaggeration), remains so poor?

Finally, to argue that a few persecuted Christians here and there is the same as tens of millions of Muslims…well, it’s hard to know how to respond to that one. But I’ll visit the subject of the black community once again. In the 60’s, there were two trains of thought in the black community as to how to gain equality. One was Martin Luther King Jr’s approach: peaceful demonstrations like marches, boycotting the bus system, and sitting down at a coffee bar. And then there was the other train of thought that encouraged the black community to go out and take what was rightfully theirs. Now, no doubt movements like the Black Panthers were scary and, you could make an argument that they weren’t very Christian (though the Bible is full of stories about the Jews doing the very same thing), but can you really argue that it was not justified? I can’t.

The Christian church has a long history of being led astray by its clerics. From the Roman Catholic church which persecuted the Irish Catholic church for singing Irish songs and celebrating Easter on a different date, to the crusades, to Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson who convinced us that Jimmy Carter (the last truly Christian president we had) was the devil incarnate, to the Southern Baptist church leading a movement to boycott Disney because Disney hired and did not banish homosexuals. The list goes on and on. Is it, therefore, beyond reason that the Muslim community might also have some radicals who, though they have it completely wrong, have managed to lead an uneducated and desperate community to “stand up against their oppressors”? To me, though it is heart breakingly wrong (and, incidentally, can sometimes make it tough to live in this neighborhood), I get it. Just as I condemned the rioting after the Rodney King verdict, but got it. I get this.

Remember, just as Christianity is often more of a culture than a faith, so Islam encompasses a way of life for people, even people who aren’t all that faithful to it’s text.


Blogger Sean said ... (1:27 PM) : 

I wonder what does more damage to a faith, a select few violently screaming for others to turn or burn and loudly protesting the insensitivity of the ignorant; or the larger percentage select few that judge and attack psychologically using (better said "twisting") the truth that brings life to belittle everyone who thinks differently... hmmm, that doesn't make people want to know Jesus.

Phillipians 2 (par) Your additude should be like Christ's who humbled himself even unto death.... that every knee shall bow... humble.. belittle..humble..belittle


Blogger surrendered said ... (4:05 PM) : 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Blogger surrendered said ... (4:07 PM) : 

Tim, read your Koran:

"Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him." Sahih Al-Bukhari (9:57)

"Slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush." (Koran 9:5)

"They (the unbelievers) should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides." (Koran 5:33)

Those are only a few verses. Many Muslims don't live by the Koran, just as many Christians don't live by the Bible. That doesn't make me anti-Muslim just because I point out what the Koran says.

In fact, the reason for much of "extreme" Muslim violence is BECAUSE they are trying to live by what their Holy Book tells them.

I don't know why you're jumping down my throat - I agree that Christians are not perfect and that we haven't lived up to Christ's command to love in the past. I was simply trying to elucidate the difference between the CURRENT (not past Crusades) climate of Christianity (which doesn't mean George Bush, as you seem to equate and which I understand many Muslims equte) and the CURRENT climate of Islam.

But if you insist on exploiting the past failures of Christianity to justify the current actions of Islam, then you should look to the Prophet Mohammed and compare him to Jesus. Muhammed's story is one of violence and subjugation of the world by forced conversion to Islam or death. Jesus is one of submission to authority and taking up a cross and dying alone on a hill.

When the roots of a religion are in violence, anyone trying to adhere adamantly to its principles will be necessarily drawn into violence. When the roots of a religion are in peace, well, you catch my drift. But not every religious individual adheres strictly to the founding ideals of its faith. That is why you have Christians who are warmongers (as some might, erroneously in my opinion, say about George Bush) and Muslims who are peace-loving individuals.

But don't fault me for pointing out what's already written down.


Blogger surrendered said ... (4:10 PM) : 

Also, let's not forget corruption and poor resource management of political elites in the Middle East who have squandered their peoples' resources. That has as much to do with the deplorable economic status of those countries as do obscene profits by Western companies.


Blogger Larry said ... (4:47 PM) : 

Wow. As I read your comments going back and forth I think that there are good points being made. Then again, the ole generalization brush is out again.

Tim, you are right it is an oppressive segment of Christendom and Islam who are causing the world to look at both religions in a less than favorable light. Even though the Muslim nations may be poor, you must also look to the corruption in their governments which is rampant. While the US and EU tend to prop up those regimes, there is nothing that says those regimes need to continue to rape their own people. Part of the anger toward America should be pointed at us for supporting those regimes, however, there also must be some culpability assessed toward the regimes themselves.

Secondly, you are bordering on some universalism in my opinion. You have not gone over the edge but you are close.

Thirdly, some of the historical justification on both sides and proof texting is taking the narrative of scripture and making it say what we want. Again, we must see scripture as a guide, not necessarily a rule book.

Isn't the real issue on both sides intolerance and deeply entrenched positions that are viewed not as grace opportunities, but hard and fast rules which may applied one way in one context but now even though they are true, do not apply today the same way.

I am thinking that the Islamic reaction is a whole lot worse...than the reaction at Christmas. I don't think anyone died. Maybe I am wrong. If you think, as you assert that there are just a few Christians being persecuted here and there, check again. Tell that to the leaders of the church in China, Indonesia, Iraq, Afghanistan and some other places. Deaths are happening and are condoned by governments. It does not make the Christian reaction right. But you are comparing apples and oranges in my opinion.

What we have to remember is that the basis of our faith is just that faith. We do nothing for our justification. Other faiths, even Islam, are works based. That means we are called to practice submission and love toward others and those in our own faith. That makes oppression and judgement in any form wrong.


Blogger Tim said ... (5:54 PM) : 

“Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man.” Numbers 31:17

“This is what you are to do," they said. "Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.” Judges 21:11

As you can see, a few verses, taken out of context, can be a very dangerous thing.

And Larry, if I am guilty of Universalism, it is only in that I believe people of many religions universally take their own and each other’s texts, out of context.

My goal here is not to hide the message of the cross. My goal here is to expose it and to chip away at the messages that attempt to hide it.


Blogger Larry said ... (7:48 PM) : 


I agree with your proof texting argument.

We must, however, not add to text. I am probably guilty of that from time to time.

I think the universalism and inclusivism is a danger. Otherwise, we fall for anything and accept anything and is often viewed as contrarian to the faith.

I think that in your attempt to chip away, you must be strategic in questioning. Otherwise, you run the risk of being viewed as a contrarian. I know that you are not. I see you as needing to be....subversive.


Blogger surrendered said ... (8:16 PM) : 

All your verses are from the Old Testament, Tim, which is underneath the Old Covenant. But forget the verses...

Contrast the life of the historical Jesus with that of the historical Mohammed. Contrast their teachings.


Blogger surrendered said ... (8:18 PM) : 

By the way, my verses weren't out of context. We were talking about Muslim violence and I was giving examples which, in their context, specifically condone murdering non-Islams. I just don't find any place in the New Testament where Christians are commanded to kill non-Christians.


Blogger Bill said ... (12:35 AM) : 

Interesting stuff.

If you have read much of my blog or comments you will gather that I am more in line with Tim's arguments.

That said, Christ's biggest condemnation was on religious leaders because they failed to see that they could not see. They thought they had all the answers and those answers were universaly true. Furthermore this truth became power. We must be careful to never repeat that mistake (something the church has done, over, and over, and over again.) So if we think we have all the answers (which are not the point anyway) then we will want power (which really is not the point.) Paul gives great advise to Timothy and Titus on power. Lets just realize that we (meaning no one, not a single person, place, country, church, denomination, or whatever) do not have a market on truth. And as Donald Miller says many times ITS NOT ABOUT TRUTH ANYWAY, ITS ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD. As long we join in the we are right you are wrong we never have good relationships. Wouldn't it be better to just admit that we are all wrong?


Blogger Larry said ... (2:10 PM) : 


You speak wisely. You add some really salient points here. We cannot be exclusive to those of other traditions whether within or out of the church. It is about relationships as you have correctly stated.

Yet, however, our lives are about the greatest relationship, both personal and communal through Jesus. There is no escaping the fact that Jesus proclaimed Himself "The way, the truth and the life." That means along the lines there is an absolute in Christianity. It is intimacy with Jesus and each other.

The trick is sharing that foundation of truth in a way that is not judgemental and condemning. It starts by doing the first thing that Jesus did living in an incarnational loving manner. There does at one point though need to be an acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord or people will not experience the fullness of life Jesus came to give. That begins when we, as you state, admit we are wrong and in need of healing and grace that cannot come from ourselves.


Blogger Bill said ... (1:58 AM) : 

I have posted additional thoughts on my blog



Blogger Pete said ... (6:37 PM) : 

There's an interesting example in my own community where I may just have to protest the non-Christian community and expect them to just deal with my desire for them to live as I believe they should.

They might just have every legal right to pursue this endeavor, but I am more than a little irritated about the possibility that the old Huffman-Koos furniture store (right off the Interstate exit to my town) could very soon be a porno-mega-emporium something or other.

I'll soon be casting aside tolerance for a spell - even though the common concept of freedom that protects the legal existence of pornography also protects my right to worship freely.

I don't anticipate killing anyone or any acts of arson in the process, but you never can tell. Things get a little rough out in suburbia these days.

Politics, culture and religion get messy, no way around it. However, I too find your comparison to be bordering on absurd. You're going to have to pull out a better modern-day example than Christmas retail to sell this argument in my book.

I'd be honored if you could wait a few more weeks and use the Local Connecticut Jesus Freak Fire Bombs Fledgling Porno Palace headline instead.


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